3 min read05 August
A former defence minister has warned that a terrorist attack in the UK is inevitable unless Britain takes action to quash the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Following the withdrawal of western troops from the region this year, including thousands of British personnel, the Taliban has advanced across the country, gaining signficant ground in the northeast and central provinces of Ghazni and Maidan Wardak.
Cities including Kunduz, Herat, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah remain under threat of falling, placing hundreds of thousands of civilian lives at risk.
Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons defence select committee, described the situation in Afghanistan as “the west’s biggest own goal so far this century”.
The former soldier believes Nato’s retreat has given the Taliban and other violent sectarian organisations free reign to build in strength, size and influence, creating a global security crisis along the way.
Speaking to PoliticsHome, Ellwood said: “There will be a terrorist attack that will be orchestrated from Afghanistan in the west and eventually in Britain.
“Afghanistan is likely to become a safe haven for terrorists to regroup and retrain… we’re ceding control to the very insurgency that we went in 20 years ago to defeat.”
Alongside former minister for defence people and veterans, Johnny Mercer, Ellwood is calling for British troops to return to the region, with or without US backing, to aid overwhelmed Afghan forces in their current battle.
Both MPs also told PoliticsHome Britain should be ready and willing to partake in airstrikes against the Taliban if called upon.
Mercer, who has been “flooded” with emails from civilians and soldiers on the ground, stressed that words and aid are not enough. Rather, “violence” is necessary to guarantee security, both for the west and civilians in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile Ellwood believes it isn’t too late for a terrorist attack on British soil to be prevented, as a “window of opportunity” to join the fight remains ajar. However, the government is unlikely to intervene as it faces its own battle with coronavirus.
Ellwood said: “We invested decades of effort to allow Afghanistan to mature into a strong and democratic economic powerhouse. And yet here we are abandoning a country which aside from the humanitarian disaster, will become a haven for terrorism and a battleground for neighbouring giants to exert their proxy influence.
“Britain should be considering its leadership here in daring to step forward and leading a coalition, with our allies, that will do the right thing and recognise that if we don’t act now the consequences will be dire.”
Shabnam Nasimi, director of Conservative Friends of Afghanistan, echoed Ellwood’s view that Britain’s security is threatened by its lack of action on an unfolding crisis it helped to create.
Nasimi told PoliticsHome: “There is a real threat the country and the region will become a terrorist safe haven again. We need to look at what will happen in the next few months and in the next year – how much damage will be caused in terms of British national security.
“(Britain) has left the region and the country to become a land that is now inviting groups like the Taliban and potentially Daesh and Al Qaeda. We’ve left the country open to these groups – it’s a vacuum and it’s going to be filled.”
Britain has a range of defence mechanisms capable of conducting strikes at range and the government has confirmed that all UK operations are kept under review to ensure flexibility and effectiveness.
A government spokesperson told PoliticsHome: “The UK remains committed to supporting Afghanistan. Although the majority of UK troops have now withdrawn, in line with the Nato mission, we retain a diplomatic presence.
“The Government is closely monitoring the security situation but will not comment further for operational security.”
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